Getting Started in Toy Photography

Getting Started in Toy Photography

In this post from Mon Macutay from shares some introductory tips for toy photography.


I collect toys and I love photography. Combine the two together and you’ll embark on a journey filled with fun, adventure and new discoveries every time you go out and shoot. I’m no pro, but I’d like to share with you some of the things I’ve learned through experience, research and experimentation as I went through my own journey in this fascinating (and did I say fun?) photographic field.

The Art of Toy Photography

Toys represent our imagination, our aspirations and our innocent, childhood fantasies. Everyone is still a child at heart. The camera, along with our creativity, will allow us to capture these moments and share it with everyone. The challenge of Toy Photography is to make the toy “lifelike”; to remove that “plastic-feel” to it and to make it more human. Most Toy Photographers put their subjects into everyday, mundane scenes. You are limited only by your imagination.

Here are a few tips and notes to help you get started;

  • Tell A Story – Each toy has its own background story. Be they be action figures, dolls, superheroes or giant mecha (robots). Each product line has a rich “origin” to it. Use these elements to either create thematic or wacky themes. An example would be Star Wars toys interacting with everyday objects in your kitchen… or how about small, green army men having a life of their own and invading your work-station when you leave the office. There are endless possibilities.
  • Make them more human – Pose and compose your shots as if you were shooting a real human being. You may apply the elements you learned in portraiture to this. You can also combine and experiment with landscape photography and then apply your toys to all of nature’s splendor. You can start in your own backyard using natural sunlight. You can’t get a cheaper or better light source than that.


  • Don’t be afraid to experiment – The good thing about toy photography is that; there no set rules on how to do it right. As a photographer, you create your own style. You may want to apply the things you learned about product-photography and use that light box as a studio for your “models”. I love borrowing dolls from my niece and getting a “professional magazine like model” shoot. You can have our pets interact with your toys too. Just fire away, you’re bound to get a few great “keepers”.
  • Learn from others – The Internet allows you to check out the works of other hobbyist toy photographers. I follow the Star Wars Toys Flickr group and this Flickr group so that I can see their own works. More often than not, some photos will spark off my own ideas on what I’ll integrate in my next photo-shoot or project. It’s also best to interact with the community and ask questions. They’ll be more than glad to offer help.
  • Share – I have lots of fun when I do my own shoots and I’m sure to have more fun reading the reactions of my friends when I share my toy photos. I use Facebook and my own blog to share my photos. Even if I don’t make money from this, the input and constructive comments that I get are more than enough compensation for me. When someone smiles because of the photo of my toy, that’s reward enough for me.

Toy Photography Gear and Details


Aside from your DSLR, your toys (heck, you can borrow if you don’t have that much) and probably a light box or some home-made light sources, you don’t need much to get into Toy Photography.

Here are some tips when you do both indoor and outdoor photo shoots:

  • Indoor – If you can take your flash off camera, you’re in the right track. The best areas inside our home are the kitchen, the living room, your home office or even your garage. Just imagine wild and fun scenes that your toys can make and you’ll have hours of fun. You can also use a simple light box to add drama to an otherwise bland and boring toy.
  • Outdoor – The outdoors (and natural sunlight) are great for toy photography. You can use your flash to “fill in” when your subject’s back lit. You can also bring a home-made reflector (such as the sun screen of your car) and use that to add more light to your subject. I normally use my “nifty fifty” (Canon 50mm f1.8 II) lens for this. It’s sharp and affordable. Great for this hobby!


There you go! I hope these tips will get your started in this fun and rewarding field of photography. I’ll be more than happy to answer some of your questions on the comments below.

Lastly, there’s only one rule that you need to follow – Have Fun!

That’s a must.


me.jpgMon Macutay aka ‘GM Tristan’ is a blogger, a marketing professional and a hobbyist photographer from Manila, Philippines.

For more toy photos and articles, you can check out his blog at You can also connect with him via his Facebook fanpage.

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Some Older Comments

  • Freddy March 30, 2013 03:00 pm

    Hi there ^^
    Im still new in Toy Photograph(started in october 2012)
    This is a nice post about TP indeed
    I would like to share my shoots,hope u guys enjoy it ^^
    Comments,critics are gladly welcome
    (Sorry for my bad English)

    Here is my toy photography album from my FB,it contains my progress from the very first time till now ^^

  • Paul V August 6, 2012 09:36 pm

    Anything lens that can achieve a shallow depth of field. Meaning a lens that provides a very wide aperture.

  • Jaime August 6, 2012 12:30 am

    What lens are you using in capturing toy photo?

  • Jaime August 6, 2012 12:29 am

    Hi may I ask what particular lens are you using in capturing toy pictures?

  • Alla Ponomareva August 7, 2011 02:58 pm

  • Menna Eissa August 6, 2011 08:15 am

  • Ricardo Kajihara May 14, 2011 11:34 pm

    Very nice article, and also great pictures.. I love toy photography :D

    [eimg link='' title='B?RS' url='']

  • CARL PERRY February 3, 2011 12:53 pm


  • tenchujin October 12, 2010 07:05 pm

    here ( )

  • tenchujin October 12, 2010 07:03 pm

    Good to know there's a lot of toy photographers around. Yep, it's the fun factor that counts.
    some of my contributions

  • Josh Arnold September 12, 2010 04:34 pm

    Last part is important. Have to have fun! If you are not enjoying taking photographs, change things up to where you are. If you are not having fun at all, move on to something else. Life is to short to not be enjoying what you are doing! I had fun doing these toy shots( ) and are going to be working on more VERY soon.

  • Mark Cerbo August 8, 2010 04:47 am

    Me and a friend has been doing Toy Photography like a combined of six years now. Mostly my friend Mach Diesel the man who influenced and taught me the ways of the art form. For the reason collecting toys have given new meaning and its "use" not just a display in a glass cabinet.

    Our imagination has taken its limits and started this interest to the next level. It was our vision to make this the medium everyone should be recreational. Not just indoors or setting up a diorama. Its taking the imagination in the outdoors.

    We've done a lot of stuff with toy photography just using point & shoot cameras. That's one of the challenges and our passion for this won't end here.

    Try one just find us on facebook search "toy photography" and share your world with us!

  • shadow photographer August 8, 2010 02:45 am

    very nice hobby indeed and in the philippines there is a growing crazy for toy photography. check their facebook.!/group.php?gid=147311423385&ref=ts

    enjoy the pics and have fun!!

  • Lisa S. July 11, 2010 02:46 pm

    Wow, that is awesome photograpghy. Do you also sell these images via stock photography websites? If not, I think you should!

    how do i get my ex boyfriend back

  • Alex July 7, 2010 10:12 am

    Wow, that's amazing. I actually never heard of 'toy photography' or thought of it. All the photos here turned out so much better than I thought it would. Thank you very much for opening my eyes to this.

  • Roger Booton July 4, 2010 11:45 pm

    Can someone please tell me were i can find the image url


  • Mon Macutay July 4, 2010 02:15 am

    you're welcome, ten. Glad the article was of help

  • ten July 2, 2010 05:22 pm

    Thanks for sharing! i couldn't agree more on the "fun" part as it have been always a challenge for me how to emulate the character in accordance to his "origins". aside from that is the challenge of shooting the figures outdoors

  • Bobek June 18, 2010 04:09 pm

    I have shot new image with Igracek - Running time -

    [eimg url='' title='']

  • Mark June 9, 2010 08:36 pm

    Here are some of mine. I collect Japanese toys primarily.

    I do love making scenarios out of my toys on my office desk. On the other hand, I also like shots that make the toys look "real".

    [eimg link='' title='gatack02' url='']
    [eimg link='' title='Kabuto Hyper Cast Off' url='']
    [eimg link='' title='Murder of the Innocents' url='']
    [eimg link='' title='You Do [Not] Scare Me' url='']

  • Carlos Graça June 9, 2010 07:18 am

  • Carlos Graça June 9, 2010 07:17 am

  • Carlos Graça June 9, 2010 07:15 am

    [eimg link='' title='VW Beetle 365-16' url='']

    this is one my shot on this theme

  • tobyct June 7, 2010 05:17 am

    Here's a little friend of mine at work a while ago.

  • Nav June 4, 2010 12:45 am

    AWESOME!!! I enjoyed the article and the pictures so much. Cheers to Mon Macutay!!

  • starrpoint June 1, 2010 12:45 pm

    how fun! I had not thought of this at all!

  • Deecajun May 30, 2010 12:49 am

    I love these... Soldiers are reality and denying war exists is insane..

    LONG live GI Joe!

  • Robert May 25, 2010 04:10 pm

    Great article. I'm a collector as well. Here's one of my shots:

    [eimg url='' title='Joker1.jpg']

  • Robert May 25, 2010 04:07 pm

    Hi, it's great to read this article as I also like to photograph my collections. Here are some of my pics:

    [eimg url='' title='Joker1.jpg']

    [eimg url='' title='bigo3renew.jpg']

  • Jhun May 25, 2010 12:21 pm

    Nice article.. I just love toy photography and I love to share this wonderful experience to all...
    specially beginners like me ( I use nikon coolpix L100)

    [eimg url='' title='DSCN3668.jpg']

  • olli May 24, 2010 09:24 pm

    Nice ideas, but what is about copyrights and trademarks? Is it allowed to take a photo of Ken, Barbie or something and post it anywhere? Or what if you want to publish your photos?

  • john May 23, 2010 04:24 pm

    here is my shot, i used a flashlight, shot a custom white balance, 40d, 50mm 1.8

    [eimg url='' title='4f3d0ed5.jpg']

  • Christine May 23, 2010 02:59 pm

    I too have discovered the joys of toy photography. I bought two of the Barbie dolls and some of the World Liv dolls and am having a blast. I try to make my own props from what I have in the house and yard. I use chocolate cans to make barrels, colored lean to's etc. I use stones to make them look like boulders and pose the dolls on them. I shoot hundreds of photos, but only a few select make it to Flickr like this one:

  • Melissa Mercier May 23, 2010 05:18 am

    I never considered toy photography until I read this post. It's a great idea.

  • Roque Fabular May 22, 2010 09:33 pm

    Wow! this is great you can put you subject wherever you want to make it looks like real!

  • bayu May 22, 2010 08:51 pm

    thanks for your messege... so I can get a new idea capture my toys by photography tool,

  • Amir Paz May 22, 2010 07:12 pm

    Nice article, playing with light to create an interesting atmosphere also brings out an interesting character

    and interpertation of your toy :


  • Jonathan May 22, 2010 04:23 pm

    Great article. It's inspired me to update my blog. I used to take a bunch of photos of the toys and nick-nacks on my desk at work. Now that I have kids, I've got a bunch of new toys to model for me

  • ken May 22, 2010 06:52 am[eimg link='' title='DSC_1222' url='']

  • Facundo May 22, 2010 06:50 am

  • ken May 22, 2010 06:48 am

    Completed some toy photos for a course this year very enjoyable
    [eimg link='' title='milkmanphotoshop1' url='']

  • Uberorb May 22, 2010 03:34 am

    One of my favorite toys to take photos of are Stikfas. You can use them as mini models.

    [eimg link='' title='stikfas' url='']

  • baker b. May 22, 2010 03:32 am


    Great article. I've dabbled with toy photography and storytelling outdoors, and want to do more. Have a category called toy avatars on my Baker Blinker Blog, mainly dealing with Second Life and "other" types of avatars.

    This is the most concentrated and finished of the various storylines I've started with my toy characters (6 parts or so):

    Humor is obviously a big ingredient here -- hopefully. :-)

    More mostly unpolished ideas since hatched can be found in the aforementioned blog category here:

    Thanks again
    baker b.

  • Prowpatareeya May 21, 2010 09:21 pm

    Behind a tree
    [eimg link='' title='Behind a tree' url='']


  • Holly Day May 21, 2010 07:04 pm

    Great article and great pictures! Some even look like if they were for real! I was literaly mistaken with the soldier! You're extremely talented.

  • Prowpatareeya May 21, 2010 05:50 pm

    My photo
    [eimg url='' title='Behind-a-tree-Toy.jpg']

  • Prowpatareeya May 21, 2010 05:43 pm

    Good story, I also like to shoot my son's Toy.

  • Aditya May 21, 2010 03:45 pm

    I like the matrix feel of the last pic...morpheus ftw!!

  • Mon Macutay May 21, 2010 03:36 pm

    Thanks for the comments, guys. I was able to see your photos. Great shots! Glad to know there are a lot of fellow toy photographers out there.

    Keep it up.

    Regards to all,

  • Paul Velez May 21, 2010 01:21 pm

    [eimg link='' title='1-up' url='']

  • Paul Velez May 21, 2010 01:20 pm

    It's really FUN!

  • Mari Lucas May 21, 2010 08:02 am

    Great article! I have been a doll collector for 10 years now, and trying to capture my collection (and having cool pictures for my insurance policy) is what got me started on photography.

  • Carmela Dorde May 21, 2010 06:47 am

    Thank you for sharing us these helpful tips...I'm willing to explore more on toy photography...I consider this as one of the challenging areas of photography...You make big and interesting stories out of these little things...Here's mine to share with as I've just started in photography last year...[eimg link='' title='why are you shocked? it's just me...' url='']

  • Tim May 21, 2010 06:31 am


    Awesome, I was about to say the same thing.

  • Roger Booton May 21, 2010 05:47 am

    Great subject I love making my own greetings cards and have been Working with all kinds of Teddy Bears and fluffy Toys [eimg url='k:\Cards\Birthday\jpeg' title='k:\Cards\Birthday\jpeg']

  • Antonio Rodriguez May 21, 2010 05:45 am

    [eimg link='' title='Al infinito y mas alla' url='']

  • Antonio Rodriguez May 21, 2010 05:43 am

  • carl May 21, 2010 05:17 am

    [eimg url='' title='28832_1413759697090_1025468445_1249026_4010384_n.jpg']

  • fishndiver May 21, 2010 05:04 am

    I found this one somewhere (photographer unknown) and thought it was hilarious![eimg link='' title='WhyGrownMenShouldNotOwn ActionFigures' url='']

  • Lao May 21, 2010 04:56 am

    Excellent article!! I've always wanted to start doing some toy photography and this is the "kick" I needed. Please continue to post more on this topic...this was getting started, how about an "intermediate toy photography" article then? I would love to keep on reading about this. Thanks a lot!!!

  • Daniel May 21, 2010 04:29 am

  • Josh Self May 21, 2010 03:06 am

    [eimg link='' title='Christmas 2009 (3 of 11)' url='']

    This is my traditional nativity scene every Christmas. It keeps growing!

  • Claudio May 21, 2010 02:49 am

    Great post, on a very fun topic indeed. I've gotta grab some toys from my son and experiment now. Here's one from a while back (on a powershot, smal DoF due to macro ring on front)

    [eimg link='' title='Trabalho pesado' url='']

  • Gabriel Gemino May 21, 2010 02:01 am

    Very good tips and article. Let me share some of my attempts photographing toys:

    Thank you !

    [eimg link='' title='NCC-1701-D Enterprise' url='']

    [eimg link='' title='Pequeños sueños' url='']

  • JMarkLabbe May 21, 2010 01:47 am

    I actually like the toy soldier shot!,.. I have action figures too I its given me some inspiration and thoughts on photographing them,.. after all this is about photography,... not toys for kids,... I highly doubt that kids are on here being influenced on toy choices,.. when its purely a PHOTOGRAPHY WEBSITE MARTIN!!!!!,... that people of proper age are learning from ,.. not 7 year old professionals with fisher price DSLRs ,..

  • Killian May 20, 2010 10:35 pm

    @martin -- Considering that GI Joe has been around nearly as long as Barbie (if not longer), why would you be surprised that a figure based on a military activity would be included? You may not like it, but the simple fact is that many kids are growing up these days with one or even both parents being deployed. Their way of bonding and coping may well include army figures and such. But t cast judgment on parents who allow their children to play with these toys? Wow, you must have been an absolutely perfect parent!

    Great article. I love putting toys into real life situations and shooting with unique perspective. These are really well done. The Morpheus one seems almost a little too dark, but that could well be my monitor. I could easily figure out what it was supposed to be, but was kind of bummed at the lack of detail.

    Thank you!

  • Ansie May 20, 2010 07:56 pm

    Very interesting, I am going to look at your blog too!

  • Joel May 20, 2010 06:37 pm

    I combined "toy photography" and "forced perspective" a few months ago for my photo of the day:

    Do drop me your comments.

  • Josh May 20, 2010 02:42 pm

    Thank you very much for this wonderful article!!

    I've been playing around with my 'limited' quantity of toys but having read this article (and seeing the photos others took) made me realise that I can actually have 'unlimited' possibilities with them!!

    I'll certainly do this more often now and post them up in here!

    Again, thanks!

  • johnp May 20, 2010 12:06 pm

    Very good article, will change the way I think of toys from now on!

  • Jesse Kaufman May 20, 2010 11:36 am

    oops, didn't get my link attached on my comment ... here's my toy photography from a while back ...

  • Mei Teng May 20, 2010 11:15 am

    Wow...have never considered toy photography before. Great article and tips! :) The guy (toy) in the last pic looked like a life-size human!

  • Jody May 20, 2010 10:54 am

    I did a few of these on a photowalk at the Minnesota State Fair grounds.

    [eimg link='' title='2010/03/27 - State Fairgrounds Photowalk' url='']

    Linked here if the embedded image doesn't come through.

  • toomanytribbles May 20, 2010 06:26 am

    i've done a few toy shots
    and i just 'acquired' a mini amazon danboard -- still trying to figure out something for that.

  • CMC May 20, 2010 05:56 am

    Good article and nice example photos, especially the Lego one. I like the Morepheus one but it's a little under-exposed, don't you think?

  • bobek May 20, 2010 05:00 am

    This are pretty nice toy photographs, I've done some shooting with 'Igracek' which is plastic figure, probably known only in central Europe. I definitely tried to tell some story like

    You can check others at

  • Kenneth Rivera May 20, 2010 04:34 am

    I wanted to share this image:

    I love lego, in fact I have one pending project to make a cartoon with some photos I took that day... it was a fun experiment for my illumination class, so I used a honeycomb grid on top with a sotf box on the side as main light...

  • Andy Cuadra May 20, 2010 04:16 am

    Great article, I've been "toying" around with this from time to time on my 365. I totally agree with @Dave, less studio space, cheaper lights, and the models don't complaint. :-) Thanks for posting this.


  • Dave May 20, 2010 02:09 am

    There should be more people trying toy photography!
    You need much less studio space, cheaper lights, and (usually) very cooperative models :)

  • Simon May 20, 2010 01:22 am

    Good article. I had a ago the other day at this.

    [eimg link='' title='Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 MkII Lens' url='']

  • Jesse Kaufman May 20, 2010 01:16 am

    LOL I didn't know there was an actual name for this ... i thought it was just me being a dork hahaha ... toy photography is an absolute blast in my opinion ... plus, your models never talk back to you ;)

    here's my most recent shot:

  • Mon Macutay May 20, 2010 12:56 am

    Thanks Darren, for the opportunity.

    Hope to have helped would be Toy-Photographers out there. Would be more than happy to assist readers and answer questions via the comments.

    More power to Digital Photography School!


  • Mon Macutay May 20, 2010 12:54 am

    @Greg. Thanks. Glad to know you're having fun. Keep it up

  • Mon Macutay May 20, 2010 12:53 am

    Thanks for this great opportunity, Darren. I hope that I sparked some ideas for would be Toy-Photographers out there.

    Would be happy to assist and answer questions via the comments.

    Thanks again and more power to Digital Photography School

    Mon Macutay

  • Greg Taylor May 20, 2010 12:52 am

    Good stuff. I recently built a small macro lightbox for photography like this- total cost of around $10. This type of photography, while not in my niche, is a lot fun to experiment with.

  • martin May 20, 2010 12:41 am

    A photo of a soldier with a machinegun isn´t the kind of toy I´m expecting when reading the headlines.
    Aren´t there better examples for toy photography?
    QUOTE: "Toys represent our imagination, our aspirations and our innocent, childhood fantasies"
    Innocence & Soldiers? Imagination (I guess in the sense of dreaming?!) & soldiers? Childhood fantasies & soldiers?
    I hope we got better toys for our children this days then soldiers.


  • Dan Ketcham May 20, 2010 12:38 am

    Great little write up!
    Thank you for sharing!

    I have always wanted to do some of these shots, and I was very happy that DPS assignment was for Toys a week or so ago...
    I agree with you on trying to get them into human aspects

    I think that the hardest thing to do is to get the "right" perspective for toys.. but... your last "rule" is the best... to have fun with it

    [eimg link='' title='Rockets Expode' url='']